Yesterday Dr. Masood Shah invited me to join him on a Dental Camp. The purpose of this session was to assess the dental problems associated with the orphans at the Raahat Manzil. These assessments was ostensibly run by the Dental Association of India but in reality were volunteers from the Srinagar sub-branch.
Raahat Manzil was set up by volunteers to look after children who had lost their father..( in Kashmir an orphan is described as a child who has lost his father- the mother can still be alive) In past times natural disasters such as floods,earthquakes and famine might have created conditions where the family were unable to support their children.. The need for this orphanage increased dramatically in the 1990 when the conflict between the Army (or police) was intense and many men especially were being killed. Since that time the orphanage has expanded to meet these new needs and even when I visited yesterday several large building were under construction. the children come to the orphanage if their father dies as the woman in these societies has little opportunities to find ways to earn enough to support her kids herself. However the kids seem happy and apparently maintain strong connections with their families and their villages. The mothers can also come to the society and be involved on whatever basis suits them.
I had a brief tour and met the Chairman Mr. S.A. Bukhari as well. The children have dormitory type accommodation not at all like what you might expect to see in the West. Each child has a tin trunk in which to keep his personal belongings in his room. Like many Kashmiris accommodation is reasonably simple as the children sleep on the floor.
In attendance were 6 to seven Dentists all from both private practices and government run facilities in Srinagar, Support was also provided by Abbot Healthcare. Somehow during the preliminaries it was suggested that maybe the assessment process could be enhanced if each dentist could become personally involved by treating a few of the children. This was enthusiastically embraced by everyone and as I understand it after everyone was examined those with the greatest needs were selected for treatment. Amazingly though each dentist chose much more than had been agreed on. For those with more simple requirements 24 patients were selected. I would think as a result of this initiative over 100 of the children examined will have treatment in the next few weeks.
All of this is happening as a result of the goodwill of these doctors. No paperwork which can be debilitating just getting the job done. The association of Doctor and patient will be also be something to look at when we meet again. I am sure these kids need such personal contacts and will respond to this initiative in a positive way.